Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sifting through to find those gold nuggets

Imagine that these hands belong to an editor and each grain of sand represents a manuscript. If so, then this editor has a ton of manuscripts to choose from (which they all do, by the way, more so in today's market than ever). However, this editor (like all editors) doesn't want to buy just any manuscript. He/she is looking for a gold nugget... a book that rises above the rest and shines; a unique story, written well.

I'm posting this because a writer friend emailed today, disillusioned because the novel her agent recently took to market has been rejected over and over. (I won't say how many times or by how many houses, just that it's a painful and humbling process).

That said, my friend has written 5 novels and still isn't published (a common problem, I'm afraid). Frustrated, she's decided to put this one aside (as she has with the others) and has started writing another. I'd like to have it finished by June so my agent can hopefully sell before summer. What do you think?

I told her what her agent probably told her -- that every editor/publisher is looking for the same thing: a big story. That story is more important than anything. I told her IMHO she should focus on quality, not quantity. That she needs to slow down and spend 90 days brainstorming a unique story instead of 90 days trying to write another cookie-cutter chic-lit novel that doesn't stand out from the masses. That once she's got that slam-dunk great story, she should then take at least 6 months to a year and write it.... taking... her... time. I'm not sure I got through to her, but she reads my blog so hopefully this will :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Contrary to what you might think...

it doesn't get any easier. Of course, logic says it should, and because of this you remain optimistic that writing the next book will be a cake walk, that your ideas will flow through your fingers onto the page with such ease and clarity you'll soon be spinning out 2-3 novels per year!

Well, I'm currently writing my fourth novel and this magical shift still hasn't happened. However, I'm happy to report that other authors I know (some who've published ten or more novels) agree with me on this point: the process itself doesn't get any easier, though with each finished novel an author's growth inevitably shines through -- improvement in the writing, confidence on the page, style, structure, tone, etc.

So for those teenagers writing short stories for the competition I sponsored this spring... don't give up, and remember, the best writing is always done in the rewriting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Learning to celebrate all that I am versus all that I'm not

I finished high school when I was seventeen and although the local phone company was hiring a ton of administrators at the time (you had to type 50 wpm and I could type 60 easy) they hired me as... a long distance operator.

I know! I was as stunned as you are, though later I realized I got the job because 1) no one actually ever applied for it so they were always short staffed, and 2) I mentioned on my resume that I had experience operating a hotel switchboard from a part-time job I'd had in high school.

I learned a ton about myself in that job though (how I hate shift work, that I love listening in on other people's conversations, that I like working in my pajamas.) Don't misunderstand, I really hated the job, I'm just saying it wasn't a total waste, that's all.

Life progressed from there... I said I'd never get married, and then I did. I swore up and down I'd never have kids, but if I were stupid enough to change my mind, I'd have one, a little girl I'd name Sawyer, and I still wouldn't get married.

Today, I'm a perfectionist, my own worst critic, and I often get down on myself about all that I'm not and everything I haven't achieved with my life. Pointless, isn't it? I mean, a bus could flatten me tomorrow and then what would any of it matter? So... I've decided 2009 is going to be the year where I celebrate all that I am vs. all that I'm not (yes, I know it's a little late to be talking new year's resolutions, but humor me -- these days it seems I'm late with everything.)

Okay... I'll never be a size two, nor will I ever have long, flowing auburn hair, and I couldn't sing if my life depended on it. However, I'm a giving person and a loyal friend. I love my kids (two boys I said I'd never have) and my husband (who I've been with for 20 years) and I like to think that long distance operator gig had something to do with me becoming an author, because I did manage to find a job where I can work in my pajamas!